Design Principles

for Co-Evolution

Co-Evolutionary Intent, Emergent Strategy and Walking our Talk.

Design Principle:

Co-Evolutionary Intent

With everything we are and do, our intention is to bring a visionary, evolutionary and emergent approach to our words and actions. 

The practice of composting power-over culture within us, that is, effectively changing consciousness from consumerist modernity to relational co-creativity, is a (r)evolutionary act. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all already co-creating with Life, in that our world is shaped according to our culturally conditioned desires, fears, habits of thought and presumed power. Assigning hierarchies of better or worse or thinking of humans as superior to the rest of life’s creatures, results in modernity's consumerist “using” of the Earth’s “resources” - rather than co-creating with Earth community. When we co-create with Life, we acknowledge that the current extractive way of relating is not in service to the planet’s aliveness as a system (which, to be clear includes cycles of both death and life). In these times of collapse and transformation more than ever, it is vital to remember that we don’t know what Earth as a self organizing system is “up to”. We do not know where we are headed, which often makes us afraid, which then causes us to act out of internalized power-over habits of predict and control.

Co-evolutionary intent is revolutionary, because it is a process whereby we observe the larger story of how Earth is unfolding rather than thinking we know what might be best. One way we do this is to ask questions like;  what is our intention with regards to our actions? What vision guides our choices? Who are we working for: Our fears? Our boss? Spirit? Life? We at Starter Culture understand our work to be in service to Life and to Mystery, the unnameable and unknowable mysterious pattern of consciousness and relationship larger than any one species or ecosystem (sometimes called the Universe, Tao, Mystery, Spirit, God or Evolution).

When we surrender our culturally conditioned notions that we are somehow able to predict and control how life goes and start to understand that the process of change is governed by a power way beyond the individual human self, we can co-create with life. Co-evolutionary intent is the intention towards this co-creation, which requires that we learn how to empty ourselves out of/ die to the culturally conditioned identities we have spent our lives creating. We find it hard to do this, because what is happening seems so terrifying to the culturally conditioned egoic self that centres survival of the individual self, and we cannot fathom another way other than predict and control. It is through wholing and healing work that we create enough resourcedness and trust to go beyond these childhood survival strategies that centre the wellbeing of the individual self, and instead tune in to what Life is creating through us in service of the evolution of us as an interspecies (humans woven into the larger Earth Community). For example, without enough healing and wholing, it is very hard to lean into the idea that trauma is in fact part of Life's evolutionary intent, in that healing and transforming trauma is precisely what supports us to reconnect with our inherent connection with ourselves, each other and the natural world we are an inherent part of. Without trauma revealing itself at the rates that it currently is, it is unlikely that so many people would be turning towards healing the separation wound that lies at the heart of our current crisis and collapse. And, we believe, trauma is the very wounding that carries the gifts we so desperately need in these times. This is why, even though these times are urgent, healing work is not a waste of time. Those who can co-create at the evolutionary edge of Life and offer their particular gifts as their way of loving the world, is precisely what these times need in order to transform.

Design Principle:

Emergent Strategy

Emergent strategising is how we support emergence and Life’s evolutionary intent over time by tending the fractal of this moment. When stepping into co-creative emergent processes, we begin by dreaming into and feeling the potency of our vision - what do we long to bring about in service of Life’s Evolution? What does Earth long to bring about through us? What would life look and feel like then? We begin to sense and map the changes needed to manifest this vision and identify immediate next steps to help move towards this change. As we take these steps, we pay very close attention to how Life responds in each moment in the form of our own thoughts, feelings, sensations, intuitions, dreams and deep imagery. Rather than controlling the outcome to match what we expected (which can be very challenging for the parts of us addicted to having a sense of control) we embrace and work with what is happening - while keeping the north star of our vision bright and alive at the centre of our being and making choices from our values and ethics. 

Despite uncertainty and change being the only constant, we in modernity attempt to defend against the discomfort of uncertainty through ‘predict and control’ approaches to how we lead our lives; projecting culturally conditioned ideas of how things will or should be - and freaking out when it does not go our way. Working with emergence invites us to learn how to tolerate and transform this discomfort so that we can meet life as the constantly-changing truth of any given moment or situation and surrender to the Life-Death-Life cycle at the heart of Life.

A great example of supporting emergence is how we relate with and respond to conflict. Most of us have been culturally conditioned to see conflict as a problem - an indication of something going wrong. As a result, instead of embracing conflict to harness its transformative potential, most of us tend to either shut it down, pretend it's not happening or perhaps indulge in the drama of it and allow it to derail us completely. When we bring the spirit of supporting emergence towards conflict, we choose to get curious about it and see what gold it has to offer us in terms of moving towards our longer term vision. 

Another good example, particularly in these post-pandemic times, is when we or someone in our team gets ill and it’s not possible to go ahead in the way we had planned. Rather than stressing ourselves out by trying to fit with the original plan, we can creatively find emergent ways of moving towards our north star. Those with chronic illnesses tend to therefore be experts in practicing dancing with emergence, as they have spent many years learning how to ride the waves of uncertainty and unpredictability. 

It is becoming clear that the survival strategy of predict and control has largely contributed to the crises we now find ourselves in. The global pandemic, the current collapse and changing climate are all areas at scale that require us to respond with emergent strategy. Hierarchical and rigid structures favour those who have most structural power and rank within our current culture, at the expense of the collective intelligence and creative genius of the many. Relinquishing these structures of rank and power-over means relinquishing supremacy and dominance. Those of us who are marginalised by our current culture have needed to work with emergence for our very survival because ‘predict and control’ is much less available to us as a strategy. It is time to move beyond this power-over relationship with Life and give space to those who are skilled in working with emergence to guide us in these other ways of being, knowing and relating that go beyond the consciousness that has led to our current crises and collapse.

For more on this check out Emergent Strategy: Shaping change, Changing worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown.

Design Principle:

Walking our Talk 

Holding an intention to ‘be the change you wish to see’ is an invitation to embody the changes we long to see in the world through our relationships with ourselves, with others and with the other-than-human world. It sounds so simple and yet it is perhaps our greatest challenge as human beings.

Walking our talk requires us to commit to taking responsibility for co-creating the world we long for. And this, in turn, requires us to cultivate the self-love and compassion needed to forgive ourselves and others when ‘being the change we wish to see’ is simply beyond our limits. Simply put, radical self-responsibility is about taking responsibility for where and when we are unable to act in deeply loving ways, to others and to our-self.Walking our talk and being the change we want to see in the world is also sometimes referred to as ‘prefigurative politics’. This refers to the practice of enacting our desired approaches and relationships, rather than blaming, or waiting for others to implement change on our behalf. This is why it is so essential that access to support around inner-led change, and composting power-over culture from the inside-out, is made widely available to all - so that we all become increasingly empowered to walk our talk and be the change we want to see in the world. And with that said, walking our talk and radical self-responsibility is not about bypassing the need for those with structural power to address systemic injustice as it shows up in the world in structural, infrastructural and cultural ways. Rather, it is an invitation for those in positions of power and privilege to participate fully in creating the world our hearts long for. We need both inner change and systemic change for composting power-over culture.

There’s a thread you follow.
It goes amongst things that change.
But it doesn’t change.
People wonder what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it, you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
Or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you can do can stop time’s unfolding.
Don’t ever let go of the thread.


For Further Reading: Reflective Learning, Conflict